Jeff Wall (B. 1946)
Jeff Wall (B. 1946)

The Jewish Cemetery

Jeff Wall (B. 1946)
The Jewish Cemetery
transparency in lightbox
30 x 96 x 9½in. (76.2 x 244 x 24cm.)
Conceived in 1980 and executed in 1985, this work is number one from an edition of three plus one artist's proof
Galerie Meert Rihoux, Brussels.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1989.
E. Barents, 'günther förg en jeff wall: fotowerken', in Bulletin, October 1985, p. 88.
L. Beyer, 'Jeff Wall', in Flash Art, no. 136, 1987 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 95).
D. Ainardi, 'Jeff Wall: Chroniques du Temps Présent', in Halle Sud: Magazine d'art Contemporain, Second Trimester, 1988, p. 11.
G. Dufour, 'Jeff Wall: The Jewish Cemetery', in Vista, March/April/May 1988, p. 1. A. Moorhouse, Art, Light and Language: a Reading/Writing of some Contemporary Canadian Art, 1989, p. 117.
B. Parent, 'Schatten und Licht: Christian Boltansky und Jeff Wall (Light and Shadow: Christian Boltansky and Jeff Wall)', in Parkett, no. 22, 1989, pp. 56 and 63.
D. Van de Boogerd, 'Digitale Allegorieën. Over de fotobeelden van Jeff Wall', in Metropolis M, no. 5, 1994, p. 36.
L. Balz, 'Jeff Wall, Peintre de la Vie Moderne', in: L'Architecture d'Aujourd hui, no. 305, 1996, pp. 13 and 15.
H. Welzer, 'Über Jeff Wall', in Artist Kunstmagazin, vol. 28, no. 3, 1996, p. 23.
C. Pontbriand, 'Die Nicht-Orte des Jeff Wall (The non-sites of Jeff Wall)', in Parkett, no. 49, 1997, pp. 102 and 108.
A. Russo, Il Luogo e lo Sguardo: Letture di Storia e Teoria della Fotografia, 1997, pp. 65-66.
R. Rochlitz, L'Art au Banc d'Essai. Esthétique et Critique, 1998, pp. 401-403.
Jeff Wall: Figures and Places: Ausgewählte Werke von 1978 bis 2000, exh. cat., Frankfurt, Museum für Moderne Kunst am Main, 2001 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, pp. 116 and 117). J. Chevrier (et al.), Jeff Wall, London 2002 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, pp. 140 and 141).
T. Vischer, H. Naef (eds.), Jeff Wall: Catalogue raisonné 1978-2004, Göttingen, 2005, no. 9 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 51). M. Newman (ed.), Jeff Wall: Works and Collected Writings, Barcelona, 2007 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, pp. 108 and 109).
J. Chevrier (et al.), Jeff Waff: the Complete Edition, London 2009 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, pp. 242-243).
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, günther förg en jeff wall: fotowerken, 1985 (another from a smaller edition exhibited). Toronto, The Ydessa Gallery, Jeff Wall, 1986-1987 (another from the edition exhibited).
Cologne, Galerie Johnen & Schöttle, Jeff Wall, 1987 (another from the edition exhibited).
Villeurbanne, Le Nouveau Museé, Jeff Wall, 1988 (another from the edition exhibited, pp. 17-18). This exhibition later traveled to Munster, Westfälischer Kunstverein.
Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, From the Southern Cross: A View of World Art c. 1940-88: 1988 Australian Biennale, 1988 (another from the edition exhibited). This exhibition later traveled to Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria.
Marseilles, Galerie Roger Pailhas, Éléments Manifestes, 1988 (another from the edition exhibited). Paris, Centre National des Arts Plastiques, Une autre Objectivité, 1989 (another from the edition exhibited). This exhibition later travelled to Prato, Centro per l'Arte Contemporanea Luigi Pecci.
Vancouver, Vancouver Art Gallery, Jeff Wall 1990, 1990. This exhibition later traveled to Toronto, Art Gallery Ontario (another from the edition exhibited, p.99).
Regina, MacKenzie Art Gallery, MacKenzie Art Gallery Permanent Collection, 1990 (another from the edition exhibited).
Munich, Haus der Kunst and Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst, Widerstand: Denkbilder für die Zukunft, 1993-1994 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated p. 89).
Wolfsburg, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Jeff Wall: Landscapes and other Pictures, 1996 (another from the edition exhibited, pp. 15 and 18).
Saskatoon, Mendel Art Gallery, In Extremis, 1997 (another from the edition exhibited).
Rivoli, Castello di Rivoli Museo d'Arte Contemporanea, Quotidiana: Immagini della Vita di ogni Giorno nell'Arte del XX Secolo (The Continuity of the Everyday in 20th Century Art), 2000 (another from the edition exhibited).
Regina, Kenderdine Gallery, Repose: MacKenzie Art Gallery permanent collection exhibition, 2000 (another from the edition exhibited). Regina, Dunlop Art Gallery, Exploring the Collections: The Admittance of Photography, 2001 (another from the edition exhibited).
Kiel, Kunsthalle Kiel of the Christian-Albrechts-University, Strategies: Fotografien der neunziger Jahre: Sammlung Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin, 2001 (another from the edition exhibited). This exhibition later traveled to Bolzano, Museum für Moderne Kunst and Salzburg, Rupertinum.
Regina, MacKenzie Art Gallery, Imagining Places & Traveling Spaces, 2001 (another from the edition exhibited).
Barcelona, Fundació Foto Colectania, Paisajes Contemporáneos, Collección Helga de Alvear, 2002 (another from a smaller edition exhibited).
Regina, MacKenzie Art Gallery, RHW Foundation Gallery, The Meanings of Death, 2002 (another from the edition exhibited).
Manchester, Manchester Art Gallery, Jeff Wall, Landscapes, 2002-2003 (another from the edition exhibited). This exhibition later travelled to Norwich, Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery.
Valencia, Institut Valenciá d'Art Modern, Immagine del nostro Tempo: Fotografia dalla Collezione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, 2003-2004 (another from the edition exhibited).
Torino, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Permanent Collection (another from the edition exhibited).
Regina, MacKenzie Art Gallery, University of Regina Collection (another from the edition exhibited).



'I make landscapes, or cityscapes as the case may beto work out for myself what kind of picture (or photograph) we call a 'landscape' is. This permits me also to recognize the other kinds of picture with which it has necessary connections, or the other genres that a landscape might conceal within itself' (J. Wall, 'About Making Landscapes', Jeff Wall, London, 1996, p. 140).

The Jewish Cemetery is considered to be one of the most important works in Jeff Wall's oeuvre; its large scale relates to conventions of traditional western European painting to raise questions not only about how we look at art, whether it be painting or photography, but also on the fundamental nature of modern life. His portrayal of a couple standing at a graveside is exceptional in Wall's body of work as it was made without the staging that became an important feature of the artist's approach. In a nod to the dichotomies that lie at the very heart of the photographic medium, Wall's evocative scene becomes an imaginative fiction created out of a real, un-staged event and sets the course for the unique body of work that was to follow. Conceived the same year as his seminal Steves Farm, Steveston and The Bridge (contained in collections of the FRAC Nord-Pas de Calais, Dunkerque and The McIntosh Gallery, The University of Western Ontario and the Friedrich Christian Flick Collection and Museée municipal, La Roche-sur-Yon respectively), the ample scale of this work-over two meters in width-envelopes the viewer in alternate world, one which rewards as its subverts the rules of classical composition and visual narrative to examine the changing nature of image construction in contemporary society.

The Jewish Cemetery was photographed in New Westminster, British Columbia, close to Wall's native Vancouver, during the summer of 1980. Initially produced in a smaller format in 1984, the work was included in the artist's exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 1985, with this definitive larger edition being produced later that year or early 1986. Wall seems to pay homage to the compositional vocabulary of the great European landscape painters such as Jacob van Ruisdael, whose own painting called The Jewish Cemetery (circa 1655) includes a winding river similar to the Fraser River in Wall's picture. But, where traditional painting tends to soften the rougher edges of the contemporary moment in accord with the more idealistic aesthetics of the time, Wall's picture is rooted in the roughness, incompleteness and even shabbiness of the immediate situation. Wall's intentions are slowly revealed through the many compositional levels that the word slowly discloses. The grand sweep of trees that mark the farthest boundary of the Jewish Cemetery seem to act as the backdrop to the foreground of the contemplative atmosphere of the cemetery itself. But at the same time, they act more as a conditional barrier beyond which lies a further level of visual enticement as the river meanders off to a distant horizon. Moving forward, the poetic rows of low granite headstones that populate the middle ground push the eye forward to find a couple, evidently employees of the cemetery, almost lost amongst the crowded composition, standing beside a freshly dug plot. Their casual summer work clothing adds a contrasting note of informality to the somber rigor of the field of tombstones.
The Jewish Cemetery's religious undertones are heightened by the ethereal luminosity produced by the artists' use of a light-box. This striking technique, combined with the impressive size of the overall image, suggests a sort of immateriality that takes on nuances of meaning when combined with the funereal subject matter. As the eye journeys around the composition, the beauty becomes dark and intriguing; the subject matter, the scale and the composition all combining to produce Wall's unnerving sense of perspective, upsetting a balance that Wall sees as having dominated art for far too long, 'My landscape work has also been a way to reflect on internal structural problems in other types of pictures. In doing that, it's been possible to rethink, for myself, some rather obvious and conventional things about the genre of landscape as a genre' (J. Wall, 'About Making Landscapes,' Jeff Wall, London, 1996, p. 246).

Much of the artist's work is marked by a pronounced cinematographic quality, many of his working practices mirroring those used on a film set - collaborating with performers, finding locations, using digital technology to combine several images into a single picture. Yet the present work stems not from the artist's imagination but from a scene witnessed by him in real-life. Using his extraordinary ability to capture a rich array of visual textures with an almost infinite amount of detail, The Jewish Cemetery is a superlative example of Wall's almost unique ability amongst contemporary artists to depict life on the fringes of society within a wider traditional art historical context.